Best conventional reel buyers guide: Cast away!

Best conventional reel for surf fishing
Image courtesy Bill Brine via Flickr. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

The best conventional reel is designed for casting and reeling in big fish.

While a spinning reel may have greater ease for beginners, conventional fishing reels give you more control after you have hooked the fish.

Let’s survey what you need to know when getting a good conventional reel for the money — whether under $100, $200, or $500. It is important to note that many conventional reel brands like Shimano, Daiwa, Fin-Nor, and Penn have reels that cost more than $500 so know your budget.

Best selling conventional reels on Amazon

Bestseller No. 1
Okuma CLX-300La Classic Levelwind Star Drag Casting Reel, 300 Reel Size, 3.8: 1 Gear Ratio, 24" Retrieve Rate, 17 lb Max Drag, Right Hand
  • Lightweight, corrosion-resistant side plates
  • Corrosion resistant graphite spool on clx
  • Ported graphite frame design
SaleBestseller No. 2
KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Right Handed Reel,Rover50
  • BULLET PROOF - All NEW and improved for 2019! The hot Rover reel just became hotter. The KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel has been reinforced with thicker hard anodized aluminum side plates, CNC machined spool, precision cut brass gears, all alloy flawless level wind, industry-first stainless steel worm gear, patented metal idle gear, stainless steel shaft and other components for superior durability and corrosion protection.
  • MORE POWERFUL - You will love the stronger, more powerful KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel with a superior carbon fiber drag system. With its newly designed "Cymbal Washer" System, KastKing Rover now offers up to 30LB of smooth drag.
  • SUPER SMOOTH - KastKing Rover reels have premium MaxiDur double shielded stainless steel ball bearings (6 + 1 BBs on Size 40-60, 4 + 1 BBs on 70 - 90) for smooth operation.
  • VERSATILE - KastKing Rover is a perfect conventional reel for trolling, bottom fishing, and other techniques used in freshwater and saltwater (Size 40 - 60 with 2-pin centrifugal brake that is good for casting). The oversized nonslip EVA grips, line out clicker alarm, easy access thumb bar spool release (40-60 sizes) and the classic look are everything you would expect of a round baitcasting fishing reel.
  • FISH INTO THE FUTURE - KastKing Rover conventional reels are built with functionality, quality, and are built to last. KastKing Rover Series deliver fantastic design, power, and performance at an affordable price. Anglers who want an affordable, dependable levelwind round baitcasting reel to add to their trolling reel fishing tackle will appreciate the low price and high quality of a KastKing Rover.
SaleBestseller No. 3
Penn 641-1366185 Warfare Level Wind, 15
  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool
  • Machined brass main and pinion gear
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • Instant anti-Reverse bearing
SaleBestseller No. 4
Sougayilang Fishing reels Round Baitcasting Reel - Conventional Reel - Reinforced Metal Body & Supreme Star Drag-Right Hand-Red-Black-Warrior 4000
  • POWERFUL - You will love the stronger and more powerful Sougayilang Warrior round baitcasting reel with superior carbon fiber drag system.offers up to 22 LB / 10 KG of smooth drag, Over-sized handle knobs with non-slip grip material,line out clicker alarm, easy access thumb bar spool release and the classic look you would expect of a round baitcasting fishing reel.
  • SUPER SMOOTH - Sougayilang Warrior fishing reels have premium shielded stainless steel deep race ball bearings 6BB+1RB for smooth operation.
  • VERSATILE - Sougayilang Warrior is a perfect conventional reel for trolling, with 2-pin centrifugal brake and good for casting bottom fishing, and other techniques used in freshwater and saltwater .
  • Sougayilang Warrior baitcast fishing reel delivers the power and smooth operation you need to outlast the biggest, toughest catfish. The reel's Carbon Matrix drag system offers smooth and consistent drag pressure, while its synchronized level wind system ensures an even line lay and an effortless retrieve.Gain a decisive edge over channel cats, big blues, and other fierce catfish species with the Warrior Catfish Special Round Baitcast Fishing Reel.
  • GREAT SERVICE: Full 36 Month Worry-Free Warranty with Lifetime support! 24-hour customer service support, just purchase and enjoy this superior product with confidence and risk free!
SaleBestseller No. 5
SaleBestseller No. 6
Penn Squall 30 Level Wind Fishing Rod and Trolling Reel Combo, 6.5 Feet
  • Level wind trolling reel for big game fish in a variety of saltwater conditions
  • Durable construction with lightweight graphite frame and side plates and bronze main gear and stainless pinion gear
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful drag without sacrificing smoothness
  • 2 stainless steel ball bearings and instant anti-reverse bearing that eliminates rotor backplay
  • Durable, ultrasensitive rod with tubular glass blank construction.Max Drag:15 lbs
SaleBestseller No. 7
Penn Jigmaster 500L Conventional Fishing Reel
  • Conventional fishing reel offers premium performance, durability, and versatility
  • Quick take-apart feature lets you easily change spools and line classes while on the water
  • Powerful, reliable gear system with machine-cut brass main gear and precision-machined stainless steel pinion gear
  • Machined aluminum spool and bakelight sideplates for long-lasting durability
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful drag without sacrificing smoothness

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Read conventional fishing reel reviews from 2019 on Amazon.

Difference between spinning reels and conventional reels for casting

A conventional reel will have an axis and be perpendicular from the rod. Meanwhile, spinning reels sit in a parallel station to the rod.

The advantage of a conventional reel is how you can cast the line much farther and faster. Also, a conventional reel will communicate the vibrations of the line better, and that will mean that you miss less strikes in the water.

Round, low profile reels

Conventional reels often come in two flavors: round or low profile. Round feature a traditional design and are round in their cross-section. Low profile reels have less height than round and have a more oblong shape.

In general, round reels work well with casting bait, are stronger, and have a greater line capacity. In general, low profile may work best with lures and may have a level-wind mechanism.


While reeling, a level-wind helps distribute the line across the reel. Many conventional surf reels designed for off-shore fishing don’t have this feature.

A level-wind works well when there is a lot of casting and retrieving using small and medium lures.

With live bait, there is little to no casting and retrieving and a level-wind may be unnecessary.

Also, a level-wind diminishes casting distance and may break when a big fish like a tuna is hooked and runs.


Reels need a form of brakes to prevent backlash, which can occur when the bait / lure hits the water and the reel does not stop spinning. As you can imagine, the line gets snarled at the reel and makes a mess.

There are different types of brakes available: magnetic and centrifugal. Centrifugal tend to be more “set and forget,” but brake choices are subjective. Some reels come with dual brakes — both magnetic and centrifugal.

Saltwater vs freshwater

If you are fishing in saltwater, make sure your reel is designed to stand up to the corrosive nature of the saltwater. A conventional reel for surf fishing

Rod considerations

Because some rods have been designed to work better with certain reels, you want to look at the rod closely and make sure it will work with a conventional fishing reel.

A conventional reel on a rod intended for spinning reels will place greater demands on the reel that it has been paired with, and as a result, it will not last as long.

Whenever looking at the rod, you also need to look at the flexibility, action and strength of the rod to get the most from your choice.

You also want to choose gear that will fit with your style of fishing, so while a guide can put you in the right direction, you still have to look at what you’re fishing for. Both the rod and reel should be compatible in terms of strength and design.

Smaller guide, collector

The golden rule of thumb with conventional reels is that they will have a smaller guide and collector than a spinning reel rod. The reasoning behind this is that the line from a conventional reel will come out straight and even.

Spinning might be ideal for some species of fish, but their limitations include drag durability and capacity.

Choose a more modern reel

With a conventional fishing reel, the biggest complaint among fisherman is how it requires both coordination and practice to regulate the spool.

That problem may be combated with choosing a more modern reel because some newer conventional reels may include a drag system that allows you to adjust for the resistance and drag on the spool.

With this in mind, you can calibrate for speed and maximize the distance for casting.

Purpose matters

As fishing gear continues to improve, reel manufacturers have continued to make their fishing products better, and they have designed reels for specific purposes with characteristics that are intended for improving performance with a specific technique.

You should choose a reel based on the reason that you intend to use it — such as long distance surf casting.

Find the best conventional reel on the market in 2019 on Amazon.